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Commercial Acting 101

I have had the pleasure of acting in dozens of commercial acting projects since I started my audition journey. I really love the specificity and fun of the work, but I know that not all actors feel the same way. When you don’t know the commercial acting process, auditions can be really daunting.

I still remember my first commercial auditions. I had no idea what was going on. I sat in the waiting room, comparing myself to everyone around me, questioning my hair style, my makeup, my wardrobe choices. I assumed that everyone else was better than me, knew more than me and I was terrified to go in. I had trained at one of the most reputable theatre schools in the country in some of the best acting classes, but I was terrified of a commercial audition. 

When I got in the room, I was so eager to please, that I barely heard what the casting director was asking me to do, and the moment I left the room, I completely forgot what had happened. Was that acting? Did I do it right? Did they like me? And then I remember obsessively refreshing my email the day before callbacks hoping to get word from my agent that I had been chosen for a callback slot. And when I didn’t get the call, I went immediately into a shame spiral. I was a terrible actor. I wasn’t even good enough for a commercial. What was I doing with my life if I couldn’t even get a callback?

Sound familiar? Have you ever felt that way about a commercial audition? Well, I’m happy to report that for me, after about a year of auditioning for commercial acting roles, I figured things out and the experience became a lot more enjoyable. I began paying close attention to every word of the breakdown, I rabidly watched casting directors, associates and assistants to figure out what they were doing and why. I asked a million questions to the seasoned actors I was auditioning against and I hunted the internet to find the final result of the projects I had auditioned for.

BOOSTING YOUR COMMERCIAL ACTING CONFIDENCE AND CALLBACKS

I created a system, a set of questions, that I applied to every audition I got, to figure out what I had to do in my audition to show casting, the director, the producers, and the client the commercial was for, that I was the solution to their problems. I was the actor who they could bring to set to deliver exactly what they needed.

What you focus on when you read a breakdown or a script, how you prepare, and why you choose to do what you do will determine the success of your audition.

The main concept to keep in mind when auditioning for commercials, is that commercials are SHORT. 30 seconds MAX. Generally more like 15 seconds or even 6 seconds. 6 SECONDS to shove in an exact series of images that serve a very specific purpose: sell something. 

That’s why I call commercial acting – PRECISION acting. A commercial actor must have the ability to successfully identify and execute a precise series of images.

The top 3 questions you need to ask to determine what those precise images are when auditioning for a commercial

1. WHAT IS THE PRODUCT
This seems obvious but I can’t tell you how often it’s overlooked in an actor’s audition prep. Knowing what the commercial is  selling tells you where the focus lands. Determine what the product is and make choices in your performance that SUPPORT SELLING that product.

2. WHAT IS THE ENVIRONMENT
Where are you? What’s the setting? A person playing on their new tablet at a neighbourhood coffee shop is different from a person playing on their new tablet on the back of a packed bus is different from a person playing on their tablet on a private jet to Monaco. Determining the environment not only informs your performance choices but also you’re wardrobe choices (which, bonus tip – are incredibly important to the success of a commercial audition).

3. WHAT ARE THE RELATIONSHIPS
Who! Just you? You and your closest friends? You and your grandma? You and your lover? You and your boss? Who are ALL the people and how do they all interact in the ENVIRONMENT to sell the PRODUCT. If you don’t have a specific understanding of who is represented in the spot, you won’t know where the character you’re auditioning for fits, or how you can serve the purpose of that character.

I promise, the next time you get a commercial audition, if you spend even 10 minutes going through the breakdown and script you get from casting and clarify for yourself what the product, environment and relationships are, you start to imagine which precision images the commercial NEEDS. The precision images that you will then easily and successfully deliver in your audition. 

When I started consistently asking these questions in my audition prep, my confidence improved, my callback rate improved, my booking rate went through the roof and most importantly, my enjoyment level skyrocketed. (Because, I mean… if we don’t enjoy it, then what’s the point?)

Ready to step up your commercial acting game with commercial acting classes?

If you’re ready to really step up your commercial acting game, these 3 questions are just the beginning! There’s a lot to learn and master to become a working commercial (and film and tv!) actor. In the Commercial Acting Workshop I will walk you through each and every aspect of how to be a successful commercial actor.

The workshop consists of 10 videos that demystify the whole process and provide you with exercises and support to become not just capable, but confident. You’ll learn and master everything from audition prep, to building relationships with casting, to getting representation that works for you and delivering strong auditions that lead to booking jobs.

I’m so glad to be able to share everything I’ve learned about commercials with you – no matter where you are! This course will help you take agency over your commercial acting process so you don’t have to go into the room feeling unsure of what you’re doing or leave the room feeling crappy about yourself. And most importantly, you’ll gain the confidence you need to trust that when you don’t book a job, it has nothing to do with your ability and talent.

You’re a superstar, and if a project needs something different than what you have to offer, that doesn’t diminish how bright you shine. Check out the intro to the course, the Actor’s Toolkit here (for free!), or head over to The Foundations to sign up for the full catalogue of acting classes including the Commercial Acting Classes and Commercial Acting 101!

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